Christianity as the primary religion
After the victory of Constantine the Great over Licinius, he recognized Christianity as an official religion, in an attempt to make this religion a basis for the unity of his empire. Christianity prevailed triumphantly in Cyprus in the first half of the 4th century, despite the fact that the ancient Greek religion was still going on. At that time, however, the followers of the old religion were now the so-called pagans, and it was they who were later persecuted, like the Christians in the Roman period. An example of this change was the bishop of Amathus, Saint Tychon, who, as a ruthless persecutor of pagans, violently entered the pagan temples of Amathus with a whip, destroying altars and statues, such as that of Aphrodite [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
Christianism and Greek Art
With the predominance and imposition of Christianity, a rage of destruction of everything pagan was manifested. Countless works of art and more were either torn down, broken, or thrown into furnaces and turned into lime. Brilliant pagan temples that were truly architectural masterpieces were demolished and disappeared. In many remarkable and beautiful places, where according to testimonies and indications there were once Greek pagan temples, they were demolished and in their place, Christian temples were built. This has happened in all cities and the countryside. The ancient statues dug today by the archaeological dig are usually without heads, without arms or legs or other limbs, and show the fury of destruction by Christians. Probably many books and books of incalculable value had disappeared [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
Ascetic life and monasteries
According to Pavlides, the Byzantine period is the heyday of asceticism. The flight to a desert area and the renunciation of any secular activity gradually led to the organized form of monastic asceticism, which led to the establishment of various monasteries in different parts of the island [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
The autocephalous of the Cypriot Church
The event of the Period was the gain of the autocephalous for the Cyprus Church. In contradiction to what the Cyprus Church believes today, the Cyprus Church was from the very beginning aiming for the official acknowledgement of its autocephaly, but the Antioch Church had been an obstacle to its official acquisition. The autonomy of the Church of Cyprus, and not the autocephaly per se, was recognized at the 3rd Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431. According to the 12th-century Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Balsamon (1140-1199), the autocephaly of the Cypriot Church was not recognized in Ephesus. In 488, Archbishop Anthemios found the holy relic of the Apostle Barnabas, founder of the Cypriot Church, along with his handwritten copy of the Gospel of Mark on his chest. The Archbishop took the gospel to Emperor Zeno in Byzantium, and he ratified the autonomy of the Church of Cyprus, granting the archbishop three symbolic privileges, but even then, Sathas (1873) claims the Cypriot Church was not really autocephalous. According to Pavlides and Sathas, the autocephaly of the Cypriot Church was really recognized in 691 under the Synod of Troullos [Andros Pavlides, 2013 – Constantinos Sathas, 1873].
The Early Christians made use of the private tombs cut in the rock by their predecessors, and also constructed rock-cut or built tombs and martyriums [structure, usually circular or polygonal, built over the tomb of a Christian martyr, so essentially a mausoleum] of their own [George Hill, 1940].
In 1179 Saint Neophytus describes the way some women mourn their dead before the burial: “Many times, indeed, do improper things as if they are drank from the calamity, leaving their hair unbound and pulling them out hair by hair, whilst others cut them, and throw onto their head ash or dust. Additionally, they beat their face or they scratch it with their nails, and beat their chest…”. The saint added that this was not a proper thing to do at that time as people who believe in God are supposed to “expect the resurrection of the dead” one day, hence, there was no reason to act as such [Agios Neophytos o Eglistos, 1179].
During the Byzantine rule but not earlier than the 6th century, according to Hill, the fine quality silkworm was introduced in Cyprus [George Hill, 1940]. According to Arab geographer Istakhri (10th cent.), Cyprus was very fertile and exported to the Muslims mastic and resin. According to Arab historian Ibn Hawkal (10th cent.), Cyprus exported mastic, resin, silk and woollen cloth [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
According to a legend, at the beginning of this era and due to the many years of drought, the number of poisonous snakes increased. The snakes’ existence is certified by Aristotle. According to Kyprianos, the governor of Cyprus Kalokeros, who governed in the middle of the 4th century, brought to Cyprus up to 1000 cats, which were placed in the Akrotiri peninsula, at the monastery that we call today “Monastery of the Cats”. Kalokeros took care of the expenses of their nutrition, and the cats contributed to the decrease of the serpents’ number, at least in that region [Andros Pavlides, 2013].
According to Pavlides, the early Christian basilicas that have been excavated in many parts of Cyprus prove the existence of prosperity on the island. A total of 56 were found, but not all have been excavated. They were large, glorious temples, adorned with exquisite mosaic representations. The early Christian basilicas were spacious buildings, rectangular and elongated in the plan, which were divided lengthwise by colonnades, which supported the wooden roof. Their floors were covered with large mosaic decorations, which were usually geometric, with a variety of shapes and designs, depicting animals, marine life, birds and Christian symbols such as the vineyard. In some cases the floors were paved or covered with marble, which was widely used from the 6th century, gradually replacing the mosaics. The marble tiles were colourful and symmetrical marble tiles. Mosaics and marble were also found on the walls of the temples, of which few have survived [Andros Pavlides, 2013].